Threats to inland water biodiversity are significant and likely to escalate as more water is used to meet human needs and the impacts of land-based activities degrade inland waters further. The primary indirect drivers of change leading to the loss of inland waters biodiversity have been the growth of human populations, particularly in coastal areas, coupled with growing economic activity. Human pressures on rapidly diminishing areas of inland water resources are increasingly compromising many of the ecosystem services crucial to human well-being.
The unsustainable use of water is a particularly important driver of biodiversity loss, particularly as there are significant competing demands placed on water and these are set to increase. Agriculture accounts for about 70% of all water extracted from rivers. Increased human use of fresh water has reduced the amount available to maintain the ecological character of many inland water ecosystems. Over-harvesting of inland waters, including fisheries for food, recreation or trade, is also a major threat and leads to the decline of indigenous species' populations.
Land use change is expected to continue to be a major driver of changes in the provision of ecosystem services up to 2050. Global climate change is expected to exacerbate the loss and degradation of many wetlands and the loss or decline of their species and to harm the human populations dependent on their services. However, projections about the extent of such loss and degradation or decline are not yet well established.